China’s problems stemming from minorities in the west of the country — particularly the Uighurs, but also the Tibetans — do not seem to be coming to an end. Given Beijing’s approach, it will not be solved soon.
The most recent attack occurred last Thursday in Urumqi, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Suicide bombs from two SUVs killed at least 31 and wounded 94 at a popular morning garden market. Some suspect that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist group, may have played a role.
The bombing apparently was timed to embarrass President Xi Jinping while he hosted a summit of 26 nations in Shanghai. It also came on the heels of Mr. Xi’s signing with Russian President Vladimir V. Putin a 30-year natural gas deal, estimated at $400 billion. The plan is to the advantage of both countries and permits Mr. Putin to showcase his country’s alternatives if the West chooses to shun Russia over the Ukraine crisis.
The newest attack followed other recent violence. On April 30 an explosion in a train station in Urumqi killed three people and wounded 79 after Mr. Xi finished a visit to the region. In March, 29 people were killed in a mass knife attack in the city of Kunming in the country’s southwest region. The perpetrators of the knifing incident were Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group.
The rising violence by Uighurs reflects an increase in the number of their fighters and the sophistication of their tactics and weapons. Both are almost certainly results of the experience their militants have gained in the Syrian civil war and other such conflicts that have involved extremist Muslim forces.
The Beijing government does not seem to know what to do about the Uighurs or the Tibetans. In both cases, Beijing has tried to flood their regions with Han Chinese and station more People’s Liberation Army forces there. But the Tibetans continue to resist through self-immolations and the Uighurs through more violent assaults.
If it really wants to stem the violence, Beijing should think instead in terms of dialogue and greater political and economic freedom, tools that are used too infrequently by the Communists.